Jesuit's Nelson Thrives in Many Roles

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

August 31, 2016

DETROIT – Scott Nelson and his football coaches at U-D Jesuit are doing their best to deter specialization.

Nelson, a senior defensive back/receiver, was the sixth man on the U-D team that won the school’s first basketball MHSAA title, in Class A, this past spring. He started in the outfield on the school’s varsity baseball team as a sophomore – although he chose not to play baseball this past season so as to concentrate on football and basketball.

“When I grew up I just played sports,” Nelson said. “I stopped playing hockey to play football.

“I love competing. I love playing sports.”

U-D is an all-male private school located on the city’s northwest side. The academic curriculum is demanding, and most students who attend the Jesuit school choose to go there for that reason without the thought of participating in athletics. Some programs have thrived; the school's basketball, soccer and bowling teams have won MHSAA championships over the last 15 years, while the baseball, tennis and lacrosse teams have finished Finals runners-up. 

It’s different for coach Oscar Olejniczak’s football program. Participation is a must for football coaches. They need players, and lots of them, to conduct practices properly. U-D has not been able to field a junior varsity team the past two seasons. Olejniczak has 44 on varsity, which is a workable number, but it is paramount that the good athletes in the school participate in more than one sport to help fill out the rosters.

“I encourage every one of our players to play two sports,” Olejniczak said. “If they play three sports, no problem, but academics is so tough here that two is all most can handle.

“When you play two sports … it helps them 100 percent. Each sport uses different muscles. It helps with hand-eye coordination. 

 “It’s a big mistake when you play one sport. People get into their ear. I’m sorry to say sometimes it comes from the coaches.”

It’s likely Nelson could have played any one of the three sports in college. In the end he chose football for the simple fact that he likes it more than the others. Nevertheless, he fully intends on playing basketball this winter. And why not? He’ll have a chance to start on a team that’ll once again be one of the state’s best.

“I’m biased,” Nelson said. “Multiple sports give you different skills. Basketball gives me that. You have to be in great shape to play basketball. On the basketball court, I’m not the best player. That helped me mentally. Playing with Cassius (Winston, now at Michigan State), people aren’t concentrating on you. That’s fine. Let me do my role. And that’s what I’ll do, and I’ll do my best. In football it’s different. I am an important part. With my coaches, they know I shouldn’t have a bad game. I put pressure on myself. I know I can make the big plays.”

Defensive coordinator George Harris knew that before Nelson did. Nelson played on the freshmen team before he was moved up to the varsity in time for the 2013 Division 2 playoffs. Not only did he dress, but Nelson was shocked to learn he would start that first playoff game against Warren Woods Tower.

“A senior was late for team prayer service,” Harris said. “We have rules here, and we suspended him for the first quarter. So I asked (Nelson) if he knew the coverages and everything. His eyes got real big.

“His football I.Q. was high for a young kid. He wasn’t afraid of the moment. That year we had a (preseason) 7-on-7 scrimmage and he had six interceptions in one game. I said, oh my goodness. He has a lot more confidence now. He’s more physical. That comes from just growing into his body. I can pull things out of his brain, and we can now talk the same language.”   

The skills the other sports taught him undoubtedly made Nelson a better football player. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he’ll likely play safety in college. Northwestern is the lone school that’s recruiting him to play receiver. The other schools that have offered him a scholarship want him to play defense. Nelson has narrowed his choices down to five: Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Nelson is coming off of what was a breakthrough season. He accounted for 21 touchdowns, which came passing (2), rushing (13), receiving (4) and on kick returns (2).

This season he was not expected to play quarterback, but he was pressed into service, due to injury, in the opener at Detroit Mumford. The Cubs led 2-0 late in the first half and prevailed, 23-14.

As far as his college future, Nelson is uncertain whether he’ll make his decision during the season or after.

There’s no hurry. The Cubs, which made the playoffs last fall losing to eventual Division 2 champion Detroit Martin Luther King 35-24 in a Pre-District, are optimistic that they’ll make a return trip.

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTO: Scott Nelson (10) eludes a pursuing defender. (Photo courtesy of U-D Jesuit/Brent Wilkerson.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.